Last Modified: 17 Oct 2013
Classic Cambodia & Vietnam
Trip code: TKKHC
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2014
Please note the 2014 version of the trip notes for this tour are currently being updated and will be available for you to view soon.
In the meantime all 2014 and 2015 departures are now available to book.
Table of Contents
- Comfort is your style of travel if you want the whole grassroots experience with more inclusions, meals and creature comforts. While accommodation is predominantly tourist class (3-4 star), on some itineraries there is the opportunity to stay with a local family, spend the night on a train or camp out in exotic places (without putting up your own tent of course). Along the way, you'll really experience the destination up close. You'll mingle with locals, enjoy a taste of their way of life and gain special insights from your leader. This is not luxury travel, but real world experiences - just with a softer landing!
Days 1-2 Phnom Penh
Sua s'dei! Welcome to Cambodia.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
You'll be met on arrival at Phnom Penh airport and transferred to your hotel. Please advise flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to departure if you wish to have this transfer provided. If you plan to arrive earlier, this arrival transfer can only be offered in conjunction with pre-tour accommodation booked through Intrepid.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, is set on a major junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers and boasts some fine examples of French-inspired architecture.
For those with extra time, consider a visit to Wat Phnom, a peaceful temple situated on a hill for which the city is named - according to legend, a 14th-century woman named Penh found sacred Buddhist objects in the nearby river and placed them here on the small hill. Or checkout the National Museum - housed in a beautiful traditional building, it contains many outstanding examples of Khmer craftsmanship. And for a more relaxed experience simply stroll along the famous Sisowath Quay and enjoy a coffee or cocktail at one of the many cafes while observing the busy river traffic.
Confront Cambodia's tragic past on a guided tour of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former school which served as a Khmer Rouge torture centre. It's estimated that more than 20,000 people were held and tortured here.
Head out to the Choeung Ek Memorial, where a stupa made up of some 8,000 human skulls marks the site of the infamous Killing Fields. This was the execution ground for the torture victims of Tuol Sleng and standing in this peaceful setting it's almost unthinkable to imagine that to date nearly 9000 corpses have been exhumed from the area.
Learn about a brighter period in Cambodian history with a visit to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda.
- Complimentary airport arrival transfer
- Phnom Penh - Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
- Phnom Penh - Guided tour Choeung Ek (Killing fields)
- Phnom Penh - Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda
- Phnom Penh - Wat Phnom - USD2
- Phnom Penh - National Museum - USD5
- Cyclo tour - Phnom Penh - USD3
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 3-5 Siem Reap/Angkor Wat
A short flight takes us to Siem Reap (approx 1 hour).
The small but expanding town of Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor. It's markets are a great place to shop or to try some cheap, delicious street food.
Temple-hop with our local guide to make the most of our visit to the world-famous Angkor complex. These temples were built between the 9th and 13th centuries when the Khmer empire was the pre-eminent influence in South-East Asia. The temples were believed to represent the cosmic world and were set in perfect balance, symmetry and composition. The intricately carved bas-reliefs and architectural designs are mind-blowing and there are spectacular photographic opportunities at any time of day - watching a sunrise or sunset is a must. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 sq km, but the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap so we'll have plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites of Angkor Wat, the Bayon and the jungle-covered Ta Prohm.
Visit the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB) - an Intrepid Foundation project. This centre rehabilitates animals that have fallen victim to wildlife trafficking and is a breeding facility for highly endangered animal species. It's also a centre of education and information for the local population.
For the energetic consider the short trek (approx. 40mins) up the hill to the river of a thousand lingas (phallic symbols) descending into a pretty waterfall. This Hindu site pre-dates Angkor Wat by some 200 years; making it one the most ancient sites in the region.
Enjoy a delicious Khmer lunch with our friends at local organisation, Sala Bai - a training centre that is working with disadvantaged family's to develop a career in hospitality.
- Siem Reap - 3 day Angkor pass
- Siem Reap - Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity
- Lunch at Sala Bai
- Siem Reap - Kbal Spean (river of a thousand lingas) - Free
- Siem Reap - Khmer cooking class - USD25
- Khmer traditional massage - USD10
- Siem Reap - Remork transport to Tonle Sap Lake - USD10
- Siem Reap - Tonle Sap boat trip - USD15
- Siem Reap - Landmine Museum - USD3
Hotel (3 nts)
Day 6 Ho Chi Minh City
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 7 Mekong Delta
Enjoy a buffet breakfast at KOTO restaurant, one of Intrepid's Responsible Travel supported programs which aims to teach street children hospitality skills.
Head south to Cai Be (approx 3 hrs).
Board our boats to cruise the Mekong Delta and explore its intricate waterways. This is our introduction to a world where life depends on the river. Often referred to as the 'rice bowl' of Vietnam, the fertile delta is famous for its abundant harvests of tropical fruits, flowers and rice, as well as it fantastic views while boating along the canals.
Visit an orchard where you can sample tropical fruits, before continuing on to visit some local cottage industries. Around sunset we make our way up one of the many canals to our homestay where we enjoy a wonderful meal of local specialities. At our homestay we'll be sleeping on simple camp beds in a dorm-style arrangement. Bedding and mosquito nets are provided. Shared toilet and bathroom facilities are basic with cold water only.
- Mekong Delta - boat cruise and homestay
1 Breakfast, 1 Dinner
Homestay (1 nt)
Days 8-9 Ho Chi Minh City
Activity in the delta starts at dawn, so we'll be up early. After breakfast, we visit the busy Cai Be floating market.
Visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. This former Viet Cong stronghold provides an insight into the resourcefulness and tenacity of the Vietnamese people, as well as a unique sense of what underground life was like during the American War.
Experience the hustle and bustle of old Saigon on a city tour and explore some of the city's more interesting sights, including the War Remnants Museum and Reunification Palace.
Board an overnight train to Nha Trang. Conditions are basic and cleanliness might not be as we would expect back home, however overnight trains are a truly Intrepid experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals. Sleeper trains typically have 4 berth compartments (occasionally 6 berths depending on seasonal variations), which are made up of bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided, although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. On occasion passengers of different genders will be required to share a compartment and there will be occasions where you will be sharing with local travellers or travellers who are not part of your group. Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but some travellers take the opportunity to stock up on fresh bread, cheese and fruit prior to departure.
- HCMC - Reunification Palace
- HCMC - War Remnants Museum
- HCMC - Cu Chi Tunnels
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 10-11 Nha Trang
Once referred to as the 'Cannes of the Orient', Nha Trang's sandy palm-lined beach and island-dotted bay still make an idyllic picture, and a cosmopolitan feel prevails in the town itself.
A highlight for many travellers is our boat trip amongst the islands. From the main boat, we take basket boats to shore and visit a fishing village, snorkel in the turquoise waters, enjoy a seafood buffet, and pass the afternoon lazing in deck chairs or swimming.
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 12-14 Hoi An
Take a short flight to Danang and then travel by minibus to Hoi An (approx 1 hr).
Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An is being beautifully restored and preserved. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of South-East Asia's major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago and it retains the feel of centuries past, making it the sort of place that grows on you the more you explore it.
It's also a shopping mecca – with much to browse and buy. Choose from original paintings, handcrafted woodwork, ceramics, embroidery, lanterns and more. Hoi An has also become famous for its tailoring, with a great variety of fabrics and tailors to choose from. Bring your favourite piece of clothing or even just a picture, and you'll be able to have it copied.
On arrival, your tour leader will take you on an orientation walk around the Ancient Town, so you can get your bearings.
You have plenty of time to explore. Your leader can help you arrange an optional Vietnamese cooking course or you can rent a bicycle and take a trip out to the nearby Cua Dai Beach, also known as China Beach.
If you can muster an early rise the next morning, the wonderful local market is well worth a visit to watch animated shoppers haggling over fresh fish, spices and vegetables.
Visit the ruins of My Son, Vietnam's most important Cham site. Set in a verdant valley, surrounded by hills and overlooked by the massive Cat's Tooth Mountain, the elaborate World Heritage-listed temples here reflect the rich cultural traditions of the Cham civilisation that flourished in this region between the 4th and 12th century.
- Hoi An - My Son Cham day trip - VND800000
- Hoi An - Thu Bon river boat trip - VND100000
- Hoi An - cooking course - VND420000
- Hoi An - Bicycle hire - VND40000
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 15-16 Hue
Drive to Hue via China Beach (known officially as My Khe Beach) and the spectacular Hai Van Pass, an incredibly scenic and mountainous stretch of highway with spectacular views of Lang Co Beach. Make a lunch stop at beautiful Lang Co en route.
As the former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of Vietnam's royal past and is a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil settings.
Visit the Imperial Citadel, including the Forbidden Purple City. The latter was almost totally destroyed during the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive, but the foliage-covered ruins are still atmospheric and the gaping holes left by bombs give an idea of the destruction wreaked upon the country during the war.
Enjoy a dragon boat cruise on the Perfume River, and a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda, considered by many to be the unofficial symbol of Hue. It's an active Buddhist monastery with its origins dating back to 1601. One of the most poignant displays is a car belonging to a former monk who, in 1963, drove to Saigon and set himself alight to protest against the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. We also visit one of the royal tombs, that of Emperor Tu Duc, with its central lake set amid a grove of frangipani and pine trees, and we may visit what many believe to be the most majestic of all the royal tombs, Minh Mang.
Please note, boats for the Perfume River trip may not be available if you are travelling during festival periods. During these times we will instead travel by land to reach the activities.
Most groups will visit either a Buddhist nunnery or monastery and have lunch while in Hue. Not only does the lunch provide economic benefits to these institutions, which rely on donations to survive, but it also enables our groups to get an insight into the unique traditions and food of Vietnamese Buddism. Due to the high passenger numbers visiting Hue, six different monasteries and nunneries are visited so as to share the wealth and minimise impact.
- Hue - Imperial citadel
- Hue - Perfume river cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda
- Hue - Royal tomb
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 17 Hanoi
Fly from Hue to Hanoi.
The capital of Vietnam is a charming city with a population of over six million. Hanoi is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, verdant public parks and its thriving Old Quarter, which is an architectural museum piece with blocks of ochre buildings retaining the air of a 1930s provincial French town. As Vietnam develops to compete with other South-East Asian countries, the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake reflects the contrasts of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and the tangle of ancient streets in its still surface.
Take a city tour through the ancient '39 streets' to discover an amazing selection of shops selling everything from souvenirs to exquisite silk clothing, beautifully embroidered tablecloths and CDs. Then take in a performance of the famous water puppet theatre.
Vietnam Fine Arts Museum is considered as one of the crucial museum in maintaining and promoting the treasure of cultural, artistic heritages of Vietnamese ethnic communities.
- Hanoi - Water puppet show
- Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum
- Hanoi - Temple of Literature
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 18 Halong Bay
Travel by private minibus to the spectacular World Heritage site of Halong Bay (approx 4 hrs).
Halong Bay is a breathtaking secluded harbour with 2,000 limestone islands rising from the emerald waters of Bac Bo Gulf. One of Vietnam's most scenic regions, this area of about 1,500 sq km is dotted with innumerable beaches and grottos, created over thousands of years by waves and wind.
Board our private boat and cruise among the dramatic limestone peaks. There's an opportunity to swim in the famed South China Sea (known locally as the East Sea), as well as to explore caves filled with stunning stalactites and stalagmites. Spend a peaceful night on board, beneath a night sky alive with stars. Our sailing junk has twin-share cabins that have air-conditioning and private facilities. There's also a dining room and bar where we enjoy a sumptuous lunch and dinner.
Due to recent unforeseen late changes by local authorities in Halong Bay a large proportion of boats are now no longer permitted to stay overnight, thus resulting in a shortage of boats. To ensure we can accommodate all Intrepid travellers overnight on a boat we are occasionally using a larger boat (approx. 12 cabins) and splitting our groups across different boats. An Intrepid group leader will be present on each boat, and the route taken and inclusions on board will remain the same.
- Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
Overnight boat (1 nt)
Days 19-20 Hanoi
Return to Hanoi by bus (approx 4 hrs), stopping at Dong Trieu Factory to watch locals working on the traditional art of ceramics.
Your afternoon is free to explore Hanoi's sights and to do some last-minute shopping. You could also see Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and house.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.
- Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Museum - VND50000
- Hanoi - Hoa Lo 'Hanoi Hilton' Prison - VND20000
- Hanoi - Museum of Ethnology - VND180000
Hotel (1 nt)
- TKKHC Single Supplement (TKKHC)
Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
Maximum of 16 travellers per group.
Hotel (16 nts), Homestay (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt), Overnight boat (1 nt)
19 Breakfasts, 6 Lunches, 5 Dinners
Plane, Boat, Overnight sleeper train, Private vehicle
Ohana Palace Hotel
No. 4-6, Oknha Ouk Lonn (St. 148), 12204, Phnom Penh
Phasar Kandal I
Phone: +855 23989671
Fax: +855 23 989 672
Lan Vien hotel
37A, Ly Thuong Kiet Street, 37A, Ly Thuong Kiet Street
Phone: 84 4 3722 8888
Fax: 84 4 3760 6060
MOTORBIKE BAG SNATCHING:
Be particularly aware of motorbike bag snatching, especially in the bigger cities, such as Ho Chi Minh City.
Take care when taking part in any activities in the ocean, river or open water where waves and currents can be unpredictable. It is expected that anyone taking part in water activities are able to swim and have experience in open water. All swimmers should seek local advice before entering the water.
RENTING MOTORBIKES, QUAD BIKES AND JET SKIS
There have been incidents of scams involving rental of motorbikes and jet skis in areas frequented by tourists and expatriate residents in some regions of Cambodia including the town of Sihanoukville. Due to safety concerns we do not recommend renting motorbikes, quad bikes or jet skis in Cambodia.
Responsible Travel projects
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Cambodia include:
* The Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB) is focused on delivering education and training to increase awareness of the need for conservation and environmental protection. It also provides rescue, rehabilitation and release services for wildlife, and conservation breeding of selected endangered species.
* Green Gecko provides security, education, love and opportunities to Siem Reap street kids through their formative years and into their adult lives. It also supports the children's families and the broader community through long term health, education and training initiatives.
* The Starfish Project helps those unable to access government and other large NGO assistance. Activities include medical care, housing projects, water and sanitation, woman and children in prison, as well as small business assistance. They also run a popular cafe/bakery, massage centre and handicraft shop.
Intrepid Travel also supports the following non-profit organisation:
* The Children's Surgical Centre in Phnom Penh provides free surgery and treatment to children. Intrepid is collecting children's spectacles which are reconfigured and fitted by professional ophthalmologists. If you can help, please bring children's spectacles and give them to your leader at the start of your trip.
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Vietnam include:
* The Blue Dragon Children's Foundation works in northern and central Vietnam with the most vulnerable children: street kids, children with disabilities, the rural poor and victims of trafficking. Their main aim is to help kids go to school or receive vocational training in an effort to help them find their way out of poverty.
* Children's Hope in Action (CHIA) provides vital health and disability programs and educational services to vulnerable families in Hoi An and surrounding rural areas. CHIA’s holistic Special Education program facilitates the social, physical and intellectual development of children who have motor disabilities and little, or no intellectual impairment.
* Cuc Phuong National Park's conservation programs - we're currently supporting the Turtle Conservation Centre (TCC), which has specialised breeding and holding facilities for more than 600 turtles representing around 15 of Vietnam’s 23 native species. In addition to providing educational activities and raising public awareness, a major focus of the TCC’s work involves training of wildlife protection officers.
* The KOTO Saigon Training Centre provides training in life skills and hospitality to former street children. Trainees at the Saigon centre will go on to work at KOTO's restaurant in the city (to open in 2011). Travellers may also visit the KOTO restaurant in Hanoi, which also provides training opportunities for disadvantaged youth and great food.
Intrepid Travel also supports the following non-profit organisation:
* The Nguyen Nga Centre (in Quy Nhon City) offers education, training and work placement assistance for disadvantaged people and people with disabilities. Intrepid Vietnam purchases embroidered 'say no to plastic' cloth shopping bags for our travellers and the income to the centre helps to pay their rent.